The picture to the left demonstrates the tragic irony of a world that hates Jesus. The picture shows two People magazine covers that I spotted in line at the grocery store today. The one on the left says “Goodbye Bruce, Hello Caitlyn” while the cover on the right says “The Duggars’ Dark Secrets.”
For some unknown reason, the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting never popped up on my radar. I don’t know if the show is good or bad TV programming. But the brouhaha over Josh Duggar’s recent admission that he molested two of his sisters when he was about 14-years-old definitely caught my attention. Why? Because many people have gone apoplectic in their hatred for Josh and, it would seem, his entire Christian family. But after watching celebrities and media professionals vomit their vitriol at the Duggars, a question popped into my cranium: What if Josh had come out and said that he began to feel like a female in a male body when he was 14-years old? What if Josh said that he was confused back then and so he experimented sexually in a desperate bid to discover his sexual identity? Would his critics be so outspoken today? Would there be any criticism at all? (We all know the answer.) If only Josh had said he felt sorry for touching his sisters inappropriately but now that he is an adult he feels compelled to admit to himself and to the world that he is meant to live his life as a woman? Josh would be hailed as a hero by many of the same people currently heaping on the criticism.
Some people call the Duggars hypocrites because the Duggars supposedly tell others how to live when the Duggars had this big “secret” sin in their own family. Wow! How ironic that those who criticize the Duggars for hypocrisy would themselves be revealed as hypocrites if every detail of their childhood (and adulthood) were revealed. Let’s face it, many who castigate the Duggars are not doing so out of sensitivity and concern for Josh Duggar’s young victims. No, they do it because they hate Christians, certain forms of religion, and specifically they hate Jesus and what he represents. Also, unbelievers despise God’s moral code because it often does not align with their own. They cry hypocrite when they themselves are hypocrites. Here’s the truth: We are ALL hypocrites. Hypocrisy is part of our human nature. Any lout can spot hypocrisy among people and ideologies they loath. And more than a few can spot hypocrisy where there is none. But a wise person can also spot hypocrisy in his own camp.
I feel sorry for the folks who are dumping on the Duggars. Why? Because many of those who hate the Duggars have embraced the terminal ways of this world. Their very souls are in jeopardy and yet they believe with all their heart that they have gained the high moral ground. Their hatred for the Duggars is cut from the same cloth as the hate that ISIS has for Christians in the Middle East. The haters here just dress it up a bit nicer.
Gird your loins Christians of America, the day of television reckoning has come upon us. Barna Research released a fascinating report about which TV programs we watch in 2014. They found that the top five programs Christians watch are:
The Big Bang Theory (ironic)
Dancing with the Stars
Only one of my favorite programs made the list. (This shook my faith and caused me to question whether my name really IS written in the Book of Life.) Fortunately my sense of self-righteousness took over and reassured me that there is nothing wrong with me or my viewing preferences. I simply prefer a more highbrow television experience. For instance, I watch Downton Abbey (only because my wife refuses to surrender the TV remote when DA is on). Nevertheless, there are times when my faithful wife acquiesces to my authority as lord of the manor (specifically, when she is away from the manor) and, like Frodo in possession of the precious ring, I take possession of the TV remote. Lest you doubt my snobby taste in television, here are MY top five programs:
Man vs. Food
Fox News and CNN (Wait, are they news programs, reality, propaganda, or drama? . . . It’s hard to tell.)
Now that’s what I call a sterling lineup of classiness. The good folks at Barna also discovered that 74% of Americans turn on their TV every day. This begs the question: Who are the remaining 26% who do not turn on their TV every day . . . household pets? It wouldn’t surprise me if my own quadrupeds were watching TV all day while I’m at work, given their propensity to swipe snack foods from the kitchen counter and lounge on the sofa in perpetuity. Barna also found that 30% of people watch five or more hours in a typical day. Viewers no longer have to wait for each episode of their favorite miniseries to come out week after week. They can go online and watch them all in one sitting, like binge drinking.
The problem with TV is that it jams a lot of vicarious living into short amount of time. Real life is much more mundane. Personally, I have to be careful about letting TV make me feel like I’m not living an exciting life like everybody on TV. Hey, after all, who wouldn’t want the glamorous life of Si Robertson on Duck Dynasty? Anyhow, I recently read a devotional that described how the writer of Ecclesiates warns us about many of our strivings that are meaningless under the sun. The writer goes on to explain that it is OK to enjoy the simple pleasures, so long as we accept them for what they are—simple pleasures. The point being that we have a human tendency to want more out of just about everything. TV feeds that beast. The Bible reminds us that a lot of the “more” that we crave can’t be had in this life. And that is why it is OK to enjoy the simple pleasure in this life. It helps us live more richly in the present.
Recently, Phil Roberson, of the popular Duck Dynasty TV show, gave an interview with GQ magazine (which made me wonder if GQ plans to feature camo attire for hipster men). The GQ interviewer asked Phil a question about homosexuality. Phil’s answer included his opinion on same-sex sex (from a heterosexual male perspective) as well as a reference to same-sex sex that is included in a list of several sins within the Bible. Since the interview, Phil has been demonized by the gay community and progressives as Satan incarnate.
Some of Phil’s comments were likely an attempt at humor. He is, after all, a purveyor of humor on Duck Dynasty. But Phil does not veil his Christian faith or his personal preferences. He draws his faith beliefs from the Bible. If you don’t believe the Bible is God’s word to humanity or if you don’t believe in a moral and loving God who sets safe boundaries for human behavior, what difference does it make to you what Phil Robertson believes? Nevertheless, enlightened progressives & representatives from the gay community called Phil a homophobic bigot and hater. They claim such bigotry is born of ignorance. That’s a two-way street. In other words, one could say the same of some in the gay community and their beliefs about Christianity.
Here’s the truth: real Christians (I’m assuming Phil is a real Christian) feel sad and empathetic when they see people hurt themselves by engaging in sins. That includes ALL sins, not just those that aren’t fashionable at the moment. For instance, greed is not currently in vogue so a great number of folks consider it socially acceptable to demonize the greedy. If Phil is indeed a genuine Christian, then his comments about sins, as described in the Bible, are not an attempt to hurt people or make them feel bad about themselves. It’s just the opposite. It is a straightforward (no pun intended) effort to encourage people to stop self-destructive behavior and draw closer to God. After all, anybody who knows Phil’s personal story knows that he has experienced first-hand the devastating effects of sin and poor choices.
I’m fairly confident Phil knows that people can’t be forced to stop making bad choices. People will ultimately do what they want, not necessarily what is best for them. Some people will even claim to be enlightened when they are actually living in darkness. But Phil’s conscience dictates that he speak truth as he understands it. Every American should take note of this and rediscover the sacred value of free speech and how necessary it is for the survival of the human spirit. Without free speech we will unavoidably become slaves to someone else’s tyranny. And free speech is not a commodity for a select few. If everybody doesn’t have free speech, nobody has it.
Real bigots are not concerned with helping the objects of their loathing. Haters are not concerned with helping the objects of their hatred. Homophobes are not concerned with helping the objects of their fear. Is Phil Roberson any of these ugly things? I don’t know for certain, but I doubt it. (Anyhow, I wonder if any gay duck hunters feel conflicted by Phil’s statements, though perhaps they have not yet come out . . . of the duck blind.)
Speaking of yet another reason to be bitter an angry, I recently read an article in a major Christian magazine about young adults and older adults spending more time together in order to bring about healing between generations. Definitely a worthwhile endeavor, though I found myself rankled by one millennial’s assertion that she desired more transparency and authentic authenticity (not a clerical error) from us legacy Christians. Don’t get me wrong, I see much of the posing in the modern church. I’ve done some posing myself, and not for the camera. I also see it among, gasp, millennials. Posing is akin to pride and all humans struggle with it to some degree. Bot for the sake of crossing the generational divide, I will share some very authentic doubts and observations about hypocrisy that occasionally pop up in this boomer’s muddled mind.
Yes, once in a while I have doubts. Not just doubts about doctrine and interpretation of Scriptures. I have random BIG doubts, such as: what if Christ was just a man and there is no God. What if the universe is indifferent to humanity? What if the Bible was written merely from the fertile imaginations of men and, at best, is full of creative allegory? These doubts usually come upon me when reading National Geographic. You know what I mean; those articles that say the universe was formed billions and billions of years ago. Staring at those pictures from the Mars rover Curiosity showing the dry lifeless surface of planet Mars makes me feel small, alone, and incapable of comprehending the unfathomable distance in space. Such musings make me wonder if we are merely a cruel accident of chance and once we die the switch goes off and the lights go out. In other words, what if our lives have no meaning or purpose? Fortunately, hindsight helps me see the hand of God on my life and reminds me that he is real.
Need more authenticity? Why do we put so much feeling and effort into our prayers even when they feel flat and seem to go no further than the ceiling? Why do modern Christians focus more on some sins while ignoring others? Why do some congregations and clergy present a public image of caring when behind the scenes they remain unconcerned about people they wound? Why do we speak so glowingly about loving God when, at times, loving God can feel like trying to love thin air? For instance, if I tell my wife I love her, she usually smiles or gives me a hug. But if I tell God that I love him, my physical senses and my spirit do not always feel a response.
Why do many American Christians put on a front of having it all together when the truth is their life and relationships are a train wreck? Many Christian couples put forth the appearance that their marriage is healthy and good, but then one day word leaks that they are getting divorced and he has moved in with their former babysitter.
Why do we spend so much time and effort keeping up appearances? The answers are complicated. Nevertheless, I will venture one possible explanation. Do you remember when Adam and Eve screwed up in the Garden? Afterwards, one of the first things they did was to make clothes to cover their nakedness. Being completely authentic is a bit like being naked in public. Shame makes us want to cover up. We also do not feel safe when exposed. Ever since the Garden, humans have been trying to cover up. Metaphorically, the fig leafs and animal skins used by Adam and Eve have expanded to include personality and character adjustments that we cleverly create as a mask to cover our sins and flaws. We live in denial as to how we appear before God. We are always naked before God. There is nothing hidden from his eye. But we can at least hide our nakedness, wounds, sins, and flaws from each other . . . or so we think. We want to hide the ugly truth from the eyes of others.
Millennials who cry for more authenticity have a valid point. But a word of caution is appropriate: the depth of our imperfections and sins can run so deep that it can take God a lifetime to peel back our fig leafs and masks to reveal the truth that leads to healing and freedom. If God did it all at once, it might overwhelm and ruin us. That’s why we need to offer grace to each other . . . a lot of grace. Millennials might not know it, but I’d wager most of them are even now making masks and crafting fig leafs to cover the nakedness of their own flaws. And when my grandson is a young adult, he will probably call for millennials to be more . . . authentic.
Yesterday I spotted a wild turkey trotting down the shoulder of a freeway. No wonder they are called WILD turkeys. The bird wasn’t even going with the flow of traffic. Trotting down the shoulder of a busy California freeway is akin to extreme sports such as base jumping or running with the bulls. (Actually, driving on a California freeway is a lot like running with the bulls.) And by the way, where does a turkey need to go in such a hurry that she feels compelled to use the freeway? Regardless, that bird was willing to take a risk and move in an unconventional way, at least for a turkey.
Is there a spiritual lesson here? (I doubt it, but here goes.) Within the ecosystem of modern Christianity there are some who believe American Christians have become too comfortable, that the American dream has hijacked our faith. They argue that the pursuit of the American dream has derailed us from a life of trusting God while taking risks to spread Christianity in unconventional ways. Perhaps they are right. But on an individual level there are still brave souls who break with convention to step out in faith and take risks to spread the message of Christ. For example, young couples who sell everything and move into dangerous inner-city neighborhoods to toil among the poorest of the poor and share God’s love deserve our encouragement and support. We need such zealots in the world.
Even so, living an extreme or unconventional form of Christianity is not necessarily something all Christians must do to perpetuity. Life is too fluid in some ways and constant in others for a one-size-fits-all expression of faith. Everybody is different and some people thrive at living on the edge more than others. But even those who thrive on it probably won’t do it all their lives. I am sure that turkey is not going to spend the rest of her life running down the shoulder of the freeway. That would be crazy, even for a wild turkey. But for a short while, that turkey was living on the edge. How exhilarating!